Dear St. John Vianney Parents, Families, and Community Members,

We are at mid-summer but about three weeks away from welcoming our students back for the 2020-21 school year.  Everyone here is extremely excited to see our students again on August 19th, almost five months from the last time we were able to be together at school.  Much has changed during that time as the COVID-19 Pandemic has affected how we do almost everything, including education.  We have learned much from the unprecedented events of last spring and the innovation, dedication, and teamwork of our teachers, staff, and parents; the persistence and resilience of our students; and the strength of our community of faith to SHINE especially bright in uncertain times.  We are building on this experience to SHINE even brighter in the upcoming year.  

As outlined in the Living Our Mission in Today’s Reality document from the Diocese of Grand Rapids Office of Catholic Schools emailed last week, we will offer both in-person and remote instruction to our SJV families.  This document grew from careful study of the MI Safe Start Plan and intensive collaboration between dioceasan school leaders.  At our local level, Fr. John, our School Board, teachers, and I have been analyzing and planning how the requirements and recommendations of Phase 4 in this diocesan directive translate at St. John Vianney, our community and our campus.  As you might imagine, this work is both complicated and on-going, but you can expect a fully developed plan in the next week or so.  

In the meantime, I can share with you some information you may find helpful in preparing for next year and in acclimating your child to some expected changes if we remain in Phase 4.  Our approach  to next year is founded on these understandings:     

  • Safety and well-being of all of our students — We are prepared to do all we must to ensure all students feel safe and can focus on learning and growing.   
  • Faithful citizenship — As a faith community, we will take personal responsibility to serve the common good as well as to protect our own safety and well-being. 
  • Partnership — We will respond to the needs of each family and will communicate and listen as we continuously adapt and improve within our evolving circumstances in a spirit of partnership and support between home and school.     

Our plan is also based on your feedback following last spring’s remote learning experience:

  • Parents at SJV largely prefer to return to in-person instruction, although remote learning must remain an option for some.
  • Parents want the teacher to direct the instruction, whether in-person or remote. 
  • Community is important, and the spiritual and social aspect of learning is essential.  

Here are some specifics about our program and practices that I can share now:  

  • The school day will remain 8:30-3:30 and students can enter their classrooms as early as 8AM.  We are working on the details for an after-school care program.   We will have a drop-off and pick-up routine that allows for social distancing and smooth traffic flow.  
  • Parents will be required to do a brief health examination of students before coming to school and complete a short on-line survey. In addition, we will check temperatures of all students upon arrival and may recheck, if needed.  
  • We will continue to celebrate weekly school masses, and classes of students will attend on a rotating basis, keeping with diocesan protocols for Mass participation.  Only students will attend this Mass, which will be livestreamed so other classes and our parish community can participate remotely. 
  • Facial coverings will be part of our daily routine for all students Kindergarten through 8th grade as they will need to be worn when moving around the building and in small group and collaborative learning situations.  Students in 6-8 will wear face coverings throughout the day.  Face coverings must be appropriate for a preschool-through-8th grade learning environment and any graphics or patterns should reflect our Catholic values and respect for all.  Avoid political statements. I will make a determination, if needed, but ask that you help us focus on learning by making thoughtful choices.  
  • Students will remain with their grade level cohort throughout the day and specials teachers will rotate into classes for instruction.      
  • For larger classes, we will strive to physically separate students into two cohorts as much as possible to help mitigate risk. Classroom furniture will be arranged to maximize space between students during whole group instruction and independent work.  When grades are split into two cohorts, instruction will be livestreamed into a separate classroom facilitated by a Teacher Aide.  Cohorts will remain in the same room and the teacher will rotate between cohorts every other day.  The grade level teacher will plan, deliver, and assess instruction for all students and will communicate with families.  Middle School students will stay in one classroom and teachers will rotate as much as possible to contain risk.  
  • Lunch and second breakfast will be served daily by Kelloggsville and eaten within classrooms.  Parents can order on-line from monthly menus.    
  • Outdoor spaces will be utilized to the greatest extent possible.  
  • Classes/cohorts will continue to have outdoor recess daily.  .
  • Increased cleaning and sanitizing will be a regular part of our daily routine.
  • In the event of an exposure or positive case of COVID, we will be working closely with the Kent County Health Department to determine the next steps to prevent the spread of the virus in our school community.  Here is an explanation of the Kent County Health Department Protocols concerning COVID-19..   

Specific to instruction, we are planning to:

  • Adopt Canvas as our learning management system for K-8, offering students a streamlined approach to accessing resources, materials, and assignments and to communicate with the teacher and other students.  
  • Utilize devices for K-8, managed by the school.
  • Deliver innovative instruction that meets the needs of each student using a variety of instructional and assessment methods based on a schedule that includes both synchronous (“live” or whole group) instruction and asynchronous (independent, small group) learning, whether in an in-person or a remote learning environment.  
  • Continue to provide student support in the form of differentiated instruction and interventionist support.

As you might imagine, the preparation for this student-centered instruction has been incredible as our teachers have worked during the summer to learn Canvas and to anticipate the learning and emotional needs of our students come fall.  They are preparing to offer in-person and remote instruction and to pivot to fully remote, should our region move to Phase 3.  We will need your continued prayers, grace, and support as we launch this unprecedented and much anticipated school year.  We will also need your feedback.  

 

  • All:  SJV will be offering two learning options for our children when school begins if we remain in Phase 4: (1) in-person and (2) fully remote.  In order to get a clearer picture of our situation at this time, please use this link to let us know which option you prefer for your children if we remain in Phase 4,This is a preliminary count and you will not be held to this decision at this time.  Please respond to this by Thursday, 7/30.  

 

I’d also like to thank our SJV Foundation for their unfailing and generous support as we have had to supply resources that were not anticipated prior to March of last year in order to provide an excellent Catholic education to our SJV families this year.  It is gratifying on so many levels to work with Fr. John, our Board, our Foundation, and our faculty and staff team who put students first and who live our mission, and this is especially clear when circumstances are challenging.  We continue to pray in gratitude for their support and to call upon our community’s generosity in all the ways we will need it this year.  

As I mentioned, a more thorough outline of our SJV SHINING Through/Return to School plan is being finalized and  will be shared soon.  As the first day of school approaches, we will also share videos and information designed to welcome students and to help them acclimate to aspects of the school year.  May God continue to bless this community with wisdom, resilience, grace, and love.

God is GREAT all the time.

Comets SHINE all the time.

Blessings, 

Linda Olejnik, Principal

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